So you have heard about the famous Bhul Bhulaiya of Lucknow – the maze where you are warned not to enter alone lest you get lost in its numerous passageways! It is also rumored that the Nawabs of Lucknow and their Begums used to play hide and seek at the Bhul Bhulaiya. I don’t really know the truth, but Bhul Bhulaiya has intrigued people for a long time.
The Bhul Bhulaiya or Labyrinth is a part of the Bara Imambara of Lucknow. The Imambara is neither a mosque nor a mausoleum. It is a place where the Shia Muslims gather together for various ceremonies especially the Muharram.
The Bhul Bhulaiyais an interesting structure in the Bara Imambara. The architectural uniqueness of the place leves the visitors spellbound. The whole structure was constructed in a unique fashion. It was decided by the Nawab Asaf-ud Daula to construct the central hall without any supporting columns. The huge hall measuring almost 170 ft X 55 ft X 15 ft was made without any columns which would otherwise require columns to bear the load of the ceiling and the mammoth dome. It was the ingenuity of the architect Kifayatullah that he decided to reduce the weight of the ceiling by making it hollow. And this is how the Bhul Bhulaiyawas born! The Bhul Bhulaiya or the Labyrinth comprises of almost 1000 passageways and 489 identical doorways which gives the feeling of getting lost. The Bhul Bhulaiya was built in such a way to accommodate the design of the central hall. The Lucknow Bhul Bhulaiya consists of a series of maze – a path breaking into multiple paths and they break down into other paths. The whole building was constructed in an exclusive way. There are windows placed at strategic points so that there is no dearth of ventilation and light during the day time. Al l these were done keeping in mind the structure of the Central hall of the Imambara!
The mystery of the Bhul Bhulaiya
As you enter the labyrinth, the guide will take you up a flight of 45 stairs. That is the starting point of the tour to Bhul Bhulaiya. The guide will now take you to various passages of the Bhul Bhulaiya. At one place there is a hidden tunnel. The tunnel is believed to lead to Delhi. The guide in the meantime will tell you about the history and various trivia about the place.
At the end you will be at the top of the structure. You get a bird’s eye view of the Lucknow city from the rooftop. A wonderful view of the Rumi Darwaza, Asifi Masjid, the clock tower and the Gomti River will be a welcome sight. The guide will now leave you saying alone asking you to find your way to the starting point! Well, it is an interesting exercise finding your way to the outside.
It is not very difficult to crack the Bhul Bhulaiya maze. Try to follow the paths which will lead to direct sunlight. The fact that people tend to get lost in the Bhul Bhulaiya was explained to us by a friendly guide. When we are treading the 45 stairs up to reach the starting point, we are actually coming to the second floor of the building and not the first floor. And then we finally go to the top of the building. While coming down, a person usually remembers that they have to go downstairs and then get lost in flight of stairs in the maze. Actually at a certain point, we have to go upstairs to reach the point where it will take us to the starting point.
The Bhul Bhulaiya is indeed an interesting piece of architecture. It makes it more interesting to know the cause for which it was built. You can see it in our post about Bara Imambara. If you are confident enough, you can venture alone, but taking a guide is highly recommended. The Bhul Bhulaiya is another awe inspiring Indian architecture which definitely makes us proud.